The time is dwindling for some of the players in Coyotes camp. It is time for the coaching staff to start thinking in the big picture, and stop evaluating younger prospective players. Opening day is approaching quickly, and chemistry is becoming the top priority on the agenda. Thanks to Kyle Turris, one player has the chance of a life time to fill the empty locker for young number 91. So the question remains, who wins the trust of Dave Tippett?
The Coyotes can go in a few directions when filling Kyle Turris’s vacant spot. They have an offensively gifted player, defensively gifted player, and a young player with all the potential in the world. Patrick O’Sullivan, Petteri Nokelainen, and Victor Tikhonov all have the chance to rebound from poor prior seasons.
Patrick O’Sullivan has been a bit of a journeyman as of late. O’Sullivan is a creative player in the offensive zone, but tends to slack off in his own zone. The power play could use the creativity, but essentially could use Turris more. O’Sullivan could provide a kick to the offense, and ultimately keep the seat warm for Turris. To count on O’Sullivan for an entire season would be a stretch. The Coyotes should give him some time with the Portland Pirates, and see some consistency in his overall game before handing him the second line center spot.
My thoughts on Petteri Nokelainen can be summed up by the following, been there done that. Nokelainen was an excellent depth move for Don Maloney two seasons ago, but this is not a player that serves a purpose on this team. He is a similar player to Boyd Gordon, and once again is a great depth player. This team cannot afford to have two big, defensive players with not much offensive up side at center.
This brings me to the player that deserves the best shot in my opinion. Victor Tikhonov has the most all around upside of the group. Tikhonov is a player, similar to Turris entering a make or break season. Tikhonov was drafted in the first round for a reason, he has soft hands but thrives on defensive responsibility. At the end of his career, Tikhonov may end up similar to Nokelainen but this could be his chance to gain confidence at the NHL level and thrive.
As the season moves forward, missing Turris will become more obvious no matter who fills his spot. This is an uneasy season and solving the Turris situation will allow this team to move forward and build chemistry. It will also give Turris a chance to salvage his reputation, and turn into an NHL player. Turris has more to lose than the Coyotes.